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Thor: Love and Thunder, and the God of cringe

Thor Odinson has gone from the mighty God of Thunder to a dim-witted comedy act

Thor: Love and Thunder, and the God of cringe
  • Ryan Gomez

Last Updated: 04.21 AM, Jul 14, 2022


Marvel’s Phase 4 is the most ambitious yet since the franchise was launched in 2008 with the release of the universally acclaimed Iron Man. Marvel Studios has since undergone several changes, from being acquired by Disney to helming the most successful movie franchise of all time — jumping ahead of Star Wars, another Disney-owned franchise. The success of the franchise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is undeniable and to their credit, they have released some remarkable films such as Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Avengers: Infinity War. But as the franchise grew bigger, the films have become identical in terms of tone, visuals, and storytelling. In fact, there is an evident shift in how some of its famous superheroes are depicted. And Thor is quite possibly the most obvious example of the same.

The first Thor film released in 2011 featured an exciting cast, with Chris Hemsworth in the lead, and was helmed by none other than cinema royalty, Kenneth Branagh. It was an excellent choice by the powers that be at Marvel Studios as Branagh is renowned for his work in Shakespearean adaptations. Films such as Henry V, Hamlet, and Much Ado About Nothing remain among the best adaptations of Shakespeare’s works — films in which Branagh starred and directed. In many ways, he was the perfect candidate to adapt a superhero adaptation which touched upon Nordic mythology. As one would expect from a Keneth Branagh film, Thor featured Shakespeare’s themes such as complex relationships between sons and fathers, Machiavellianism, and brothers fighting over the keys to a vast empire. But merely having Shakespearean tropes need not always translate well onto the silver screen, even more so when it’s a comic book adaptation about superheroes. But Branagh’s film featured excellent art design and stunning visuals to match Thor's stature as the Nordic God of Thunder.

The 2011 film might not be the most compelling in terms of storytelling, but it certainly had a distinctive style of its own crafted with care and attention to detail. The film featured Thor earning his moniker as the God of Thunder, evolving from a brash and naive heir to the throne to a mature and noble leader of the Asgardians. However, his character has undergone a major overhaul in recent years. Ever since Taika Waititi took over the reins of the Thor stand-alone franchise in the third film, Thor: Ragnarok, Thor has been depicted as a goofy dim-witted character unsure of his place in the universe. Several factors have contributed to this new characterisation of the characters, and one of them is obviously Waititi’s vision for Thor and the story.

Waititi is not a subpar filmmaker by any stretch of the imagination. His films Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit, are prime examples which showcase his excellent calibre as a writer and director. So it begs the question as to why he would want to make these alterations to the character. To make a broad assumption would be to pinpoint a few notable films that shifted the course of the MCU, the first one obviously being 2008’s Iron Man, the second is 2012’s The Avengers, and the third is 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Each of these films played a vital role in creating the MCU formula. The light-tone and slapstick comedy in The Avengers established the template for all future MCU films, and the Guardians of the Galaxy epitomises this formula with more humour and more action. While The Avengers appears to be ageing rather poorly, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy remains a classic. This is due to the fact that the tone for the film fits in perfectly for an action-comedy about a gang of misfits thrust together in the outer reaches of the galaxy in order to save countless lives across the universe.

The films and TV shows that followed Guardians of the Galaxy have attempted to incorporate more comedy into their content. Waititi took this opportunity to repackage Thor as a goofy fun-loving character. In fact, not even the death of his father and the destruction of his homeworld could dampen Thor's spirits. Despite its obvious issues, Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok was a hit both commercially and critically. In many ways, the film was the zenith of the fabled MCU formula. The success of the film gave Waititi the freedom to further amp up the comedy and ‘fun’ in the sequel, Thor: Love and Thunder. However, critics and audiences were less receptive to his new film, and it should not come as a surprise considering global audiences were given a gentle reminder in recent years that compelling superhero films of the ilk of the Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, X-Men Days of Future Past, Logan, or Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy can still be made. Films such as The Batman and Spider-Man: No Way Home, and TV shows such as The Boys and Invincible have proven that there is plenty of potential beyond the MCU formula.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s reception is an indication that there could be a chink in the MCU’s impenetrable armour. And despite all of his strengths as a filmmaker, it is evident that Waititi is not too keen on a faithful adaptation of the character. The recent report that Waititi asked Thor star Natalie Portman to play a new character in his upcoming Star Wars film seems to suggest that he is probably ignorant of the stories he is trying to adapt. Because one does not even need to be a Star Wars fan to be aware of the fact that Portman is already a vital part of the Star Wars universe after having essayed the role of Queen Padmé Amidala in the ‘Prequel Trilogy’ of Star Wars. It is also disconcerting that her much-anticipated return to the MCU was underwhelming, owing to a weak script. The saving grace for Thor: Love and Thunder is the brilliance of Christian Bale and the biggest hits of Guns N’Roses spread across its runtime. And with no evident goal for Phase 4 of the MCU at present, it remains to be seen how Thor will feature in future MCU projects.